With the summer recess (recess? Surely break?) coming up speculation is building about David Cameron’s first planned ministerial re-shuffle. Among the names being touted for reshuffle is a surprising one. That of the Chancellor George Osborne.
While I fully expect Osborne to stay in his position up to at least the next Westminster Election, it is however worth looking at the reasons why he should be removed from his position. It is his own “Scorched Earth” policy (a policy of deep cuts intended to lower the structural deficit but has – as predicted – utterly destroyed any chance of growth) that has done more harm than good to the UK economy. It is worth noting that Osborne’s main cheerleaders when he became Chancellor now advocate some sort of “plan B”.
While Osborne has refused to alter or amend his Scorched Earth policy, this is coming under subtle attack. The IMF has called for a “Plan B” to be considered, while figures show that borrowing has gone up under Osborne. The timetable for reduction of the deficit has also been extended into the middle of the next parliament. With all of these signs that this policy is not working, you would have thought that there would be a re-think. Yet as far as we are aware, Darth Gideon & Beaker have not considered any form of amendment to their policy, which is astonishing considering the list of u-turns this government has made since coming to power.
While George’s “scorched Earth” policy has steadily unravelled, his budget came apart in jig time. If there wasn’t a u-turn on the “Pasty tax”, then there was a u-turn on the fuel duty escalator. We are waiting for a u-turn on the “Granny-tax”, but I’m sure that will be in the offing. To date George’s third budget has produced four u-turns, and a mass of contradictions – the biggie being the government intent on raising revenues but slashing the top rate of tax to 45% - rather than extending the threshold down to over £100,000. Not the performance of a master political strategist… which Osborne showed he wasn’t by picking a deeply offensive fight with Ed Balls over the Libor scandal.
Osborne’s feeble attempt to pin the blame for the Libor Scandal on Balls Vardera and Brown smacked of desperation. In short, Osborne looked like a chump over this episode, and has generally looked completely out of his depth in this job. No wonder the SNP cheerleaders in the MacBloggosphere are counting their chickens and rather ignoring the bit about convincing the electorate while the words of one G Brown have come back to haunt this administration – “no time for a novice”. However as I pointed out earlier, Osborne will stay in his position.
Osborne’s position is mostly due to his closeness to Cameron and also to the perceived reaction should he be removed. It is thought that the money markets and the credit rating agencies would see Osborne’s removal as a softening of the government’s deficit reduction policy. Osborne’s removal would also weaken Cameron’s own position as Prime Minister, as Osborne is a key ally in the cabinet. I suspect that Osborne may well give up his multiple roles as chair for several government committee’s.
What is interesting is that there are now natural conservative supporters coming out and saying that Osborne should be removed from his post as Chancellor. Whether Osborne remains the key Tory strategist remains to be seen. What is unheard of is of people from Osborne’s own side questioning his abilities. All of a sudden, that outright election victory in 2015 doesn’t quite look so straightforward.